The following is a guest contribution by the Winchester Chapter of the Embroiders’ Guild of America (WEGA) and the Multicultural Club Collage (MCC) of Frederick County, VA. I invite you to read on and learn how you can contribute to this community project to recreate a familiar painting as a hand stitched tapestry. Many of our readers live in or own one of the historic houses depicted in the tapestry, and we encourage you to reach out to contact the Valley Tapestry project leaders and become involved in the process.
It All Started with a Book
It all started with the book – Defend the Valley by Margaretta Barton Colt. The book tells the story of the Civil War through the letters and private papers of the Barton and Jones clans—two great limbs of one family tree with roots in Winchester. The Bartons and Joneses collectively sent eleven men into battle, most in the brigade led by Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. Defend the Valley presents a fully rounded picture of the daily struggles of ordinary families living through the Civil War and a documentation of the passing of a way of life.
Then Came the Painting
The book led to the contemporary primitive painting by Page Huff Dillon – “Winchester & Frederick County, Virginia,” (1995), commissioned by Margaretta Barton Colt. Cissy Shull, Executive Director at Winchester–Frederick County Historical Society, presided over a group of historians who acted as consultants to ensure the historic accuracy not only of the painting’s thirty-four buildings, but also the landscape, people, and lifestyle in the Valley. The painting is well known to many citizens of Winchester and can be seen in a number of local offices and homes.
That Launched the Tapestry
The painting then set in motion the idea of telling the Valley’s storied history through a community-based project to create a needlework narrative – a tapestry that would be hand stitched by members of the community. The main panel of the tapestry will interpret Page Huff Dillon’s painting, including the thirty-four historic buildings, and reflect on the stories of people and events told in Defend the Valley. We call our project – “The Shenandoah Valley Tapestry – A Journey Through Time.”
The “Tapestry” project is spearheaded by the Winchester Chapter of the Embroiders’ Guild of America (WEGA) and the local community advocacy organization, the Multicultural Club Collage (MCC) of Frederick County, VA. Working together and serving as the Directors of the Tapestry project, the WEGA and MCC have been joined by The Handley Regional Library, the Winchester-Frederick County Historical Society, and the Kernstown Battlefield Association to bring “The Shenandoah Valley Tapestry” to life. The promotional celebration highlighting the book, the painting, and “The Tapestry” is scheduled for November 14, 2015 at the Handley Regional Library and November 15, 2015 at Kernstown Battlefield. Margaretta Barton Colt is the keynote speaker for these events where she will also be available for book signings of Defend the Valley.
For and By the People of the Community
We have just started working on “The Tapestry”, but are making good progress. The buildings, people and landscape have been outlined in place on the background canvas fabric, the sky has been quilted, and several buildings are “under stitching construction.” It is an exciting time and we want “The Tapestry” to be a true community project, for and by everyone, from the smallest children, to teenagers, to people who want to just make one stitch, to mature experienced stitchers. Some needlework skills are welcomed but not required – we can teach you! We will host workshops and stitch-ins, story times, and classes in embroidery at the Handley Library. Everyone who participates will sign “The Tapestry” log book, a permanent record accompanying “The Tapestry” that identifies each participant.
You can make just one stitch and get your name in history!
“The Shenandoah Valley Tapestry – a Journey Through Time” has its very own Facebook page. Take a look and like us on Facebook where you will see photos of our kick-off event: the first stitch taken by Jennifer Sutter of the Handley Library.
It Provides Economic, Educational, and Tourism Benefits
Upon completion, the Kernstown Battlefield Association and the Handley Library have expressed their willingness to host “The Tapestry” and build programs around it, both for the community and also to support historic education and preservation, and encourage heritage tourism. We believe “The Tapestry” project can help protect and promote Winchester and environs historic resources because it will help generate tourism dollars through marketing and advertising of these buildings and sites.
First of all we would like to see among our participants and sponsors those who are representing organizations and families – owners and business associated with the buildings and sites depicted in the painting.
Each building / site sponsor will be identified in “The Tapestry” promotional materials, to include events hosted at Kernstown Battlefield and the Handley Regional Library. Business or company logos are welcome as part of a sponsor’s identification. In addition, a special plaque identifying each sponsor will be created to accompany “The Tapestry” wherever it is hosted.
We are in the process of identifying the owners/businesses/residents of each building and site, but we still need a little help. Attached is a list of the buildings and sites and what contact information we have been able to gather so far. As a member of PHW we are asking you for your help in verifying the information we have, helping us fill in the missing information, and we are especially anxious to meet with each building and site point of contact. If you can help us complete the building and site contact information, please contact us at email@example.com or call us at 703-608-3924.
We are also happy to announce that each building and site is available for sponsorship. All funds donated to “The Tapestry” go toward providing tapestry linen, stitching threads, needles and other stitching materials, framing materials, promotional materials, etc. to bring “The Shenandoah Valley Tapestry – A Journey Through Time” to life. Any excess funds remaining upon completion of the project will be managed by the Winchester–Frederick County Historical Society and designated for the conservation of the Tapestry. No administrative expenses are associated with this Project. All funds donated are totally and fully tax deductible according to the IRS rules for 501-C3 non-profits. Checks should be made out to Winchester–Frederick County Historical Society with a special designation in the note section for the Tapestry Project.
If you want to help us bring “The Shenandoah Valley Tapestry – A Journey Through Time” to life as a sponsor, if you have any questions, or if you are interested in participating in the wonderful community based heritage “Tapestry” project, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 703-608-3924.
Addition 8/18/2015: In November, Margaretta will be also presenting, selling, and signing her new book: Martial Bliss: The Story of The Military Bookman, which tells the story of how she wrote Defend the Valley. Presentations will take place November 14 at the Handley Library and November 15 at Kernstown Battlefield.